Liberia: Dokodan Farmers Appeal for Assistance
For nearly a decade, farmers of the Dokodan cooperative in Nimba County have lacked the opportunity to grow enough rice to supply the market due to the damage of a dam that was once used to boost the production of rice.
The dam was constructed in the 1970s in the community during the time Liberia was known for producing more rice for the local market.
It is an important source of water supply or structure that enables the farmers to grow rice throughout the year. But it got damaged in 2015 and since then it has not been repaired by the Liberian government.
Liberia’s agriculture sector is currently limited with the deployment of infrastructure such as dams or irrigation systems. Many of the lowlands are not well irrigated to increase the production of rice.
Agriculture Minister Jeanine Milly Cooper once said that with the employment of more irrigation structures, it is possible that rice farmers of Liberia can grow more rice throughout the year to reduce importation.
The nation spends nearly US$200 million dollars annually to import rice to ensure food security for its citizens.
“If only farmers are supported to grow rice in two cropping seasons, we can reduce the level of importation,” Minister Cooper once told development partners.
However, though the government has strategies in place to promote irrigation for lowland rice cultivation the plans are yet to be fully supported.
Moses Philip, a member of the cooperative, told the Daily Observer that due to the damage of the dam, the rice yield has remained low.
He said before when the dam was good, they grew enough rice not only for their families, but for the market as well.
The Dokodan Cooperative is one of the oldest cooperatives in Liberia. It has gotten a lot of international assistance over the past years, but it seemed as though the support provided was not sustainable.
Philip stated that on many occasions they have appealed to the government to reconstruct the dam, but such appeal is yet to come to fruition.
“We have many challenges, but the main issue is the rehabilitation of our dam. And so we hope that the government will come in this time to assist us solve this problem,” he said.
Philip said because of the poor condition of the dam, so many of them have not been engaged in rice production.
“But many of us are not into rice production due to the poor condition of the dam,” he explained.
Philip spoke to the Daily Observer recently in his community when officials of the Rural Economy Transformation Project (RETRAP) of the Ministry of Agriculture, along with Business Development Service Provider (BDSP), paid a one-day visit to the Dokodan Cooperative to ascertain the level of challenges facing the farming organization.
Meanwhile, the Dokodan farmers have partnered with LIFE Liberia, a Christian non-governmental organization to address some of their challenges. Challenges such as the lack of access to improved rice seeds, lack of farm machines and marketing constraints for paddy still remain as serious issues to increase the productivity of the farmers.
Former Lutheran Bishop D. Jensen Seyekulo, who is the founder and Board Chairman of LIFE Liberia, said the Dokodan farmers’ cooperative has a lot of potential to supply the market and that is why the two groups have resolved to forge a partnership.
He said his organization is a conglomeration of four churches established to help the government's efforts to increase rice production.
According to him, based on an assessment conducted by an engineer his organization once hired, it would cost more than US$200,000 to repair the dam.
Seyekulo mentioned that his organization was working with the farmers to source funding for the rehabilitation of the dam.
The Dokodan cooperative was established in 1971. It has a membership of about 97 registered farmers who are shareholders and others are beneficiaries. The farmland is more than 2,000 acres of lowland, all of which is currently under cultivation.